Baking Powder & Baking Soda
Some of my readers have asked if baking powder is ok? They often refer to this quote among others: "The use of soda or baking powder is harmful and unnecessary. Soda causes inflammation of the stomach, and often poisons the entire system." Ellen White, Counsels on Diet and Foods p342. One older study (the only negative one I have found on the subject) stated that sodium bicarbonate reduces both heart and systemic oxygenation. It may lead to actual oxygen starvation of the heart muscle in some people with that disease. (Ref. THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, 87:7. July 1989). But I can't find the acutal article only a quote from a doctor on the matter. I have no way to know how they tested the chemical. In my opinion one of the issues is poor manufacturing and over use.
There is evidence the "old" baking powders/sodas were often laced with harmful chemicals and heavy metals due to the primitive refining processes, and even hygiene of the manufacuturers. There is evidence the new baking powers are safe, but be sure to get an aluminum free brand. Here is an article on this subject that was posted on the Ellen White estate. Dept of Home Economics - 2.32MB. Saleratus (often assumed to be baking soda but was not sodium bicarbonate), a potassium salt, was a product that had health issues because of the ingredients and the unregulation of purity of ingredients. It was often laced with heavy metals or other harmful chemicals and is no longer on the market. http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodfaq.html#bakingpowder
Our bodies make sodium bicarbonate to reduce acid in the stomach and the bowels. Too much 'extra' from dietary consumption can reduce the acid and make digestion more difficult. Many recipes from that era (when Counsels on Diet and Foods was written) used copious amounts of soda. If you used 2 or 3 Tbsp of baking soda in a recipe of biscuits or bread every day (and yes, they ate bread and biscuits every day often at all meals), plus in pancakes, plus in crackers, plus in desserts, can you see how that would be harmful?
Another reason to avoid 'regular' baking powder is it can contain aluminum. READ the ingredients, it will be listed. Aluminum may cause an inhibition of intestinal absorption of phosphorus and this may be followed by an increase in calcium loss. The effect is probably due to the binding of dietary phosphorus in the intestine by the aluminum. (Spencer & Lender, 1979). Much has been written on the harmful effects of aluminum and it is fairly easy to get aluminum free baking powders. In Canada, Magic Baking Powder, a standard in all grocery stores is aluminum free.
The only baking powder I've found without 'soda' is Ener-G baking powder. It consists of two ingredients: calcium carbonate and citric acid. Both are simple, natural ingredients. When combined with water it forms calcium citrate, a highly digestible form of calcium. Use 2 tsp of regular baking powder to 1 Tbsp Ener-G Baking Powder. It can be purchased at health food stores and Azure Standard. It reacts with liquid so time is of the essence. Mix quickly and thoroughly, then put it into the oven as soon as possible. There have been some warnings on the internet about calcium carbonate, but NOT because it is harmful but because it can contain other chemicals from improper refining. Thus mass marketed antacids can be laced with these chemicals. I can't say where Ener-G gets theirs from, I did contact them years ago and they assured me it was safe.
What about food grade hydrogen peroxide?
I would NEVER use hydrogen peroxide internally. Peroxide is a chemical that kills all living cells. While people tote the health of cooking with it, there is little research on the subject. When I research this topic I can't find any science to back them up the claims it is safe and healthy, just opinions. What I can find is strong evidence how strong this chemical really is. Used in manufacture of many animals products to kill bacteria (good and bad).
http://www.livestrong.com/article/130692-dangers-grade-hydrogen-peroxide/ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2658134/ http://ipcblog.org/2011/02/08/frightening-facts-about-food-grade-hydrogen-peroxide/
While all these warnings relate to it before it is cooked, there is no scientific evidence to support it is healthy even when cooked, albeit it MAY be safe. There is NO other food or ingredient we cook with that is so caustic and since there is no benefit I would not use this chemical in my home.
As for leavening, I use what people have used for 1000's of years: yeasts/good bacteria and aluminum free baking powder.
Yeast & Sour Dough
Yeast has been used for 1000's of years to make bread. From Bible times until now, wholesome bread has been a staple for delicious, wholesome foods for generations across vast cultures. Never has bread been attacked until this century when food intolerance has many people questioning healthy food. If you have a food allergy or a food senstitivity you must listen to your body but that does not make that food toxic, dangerous, or unhealthy. There is NO evidence for not using yeast to leaven bread but you can misuse it!
Following the directions for the recipe is VERY important. Temperance of the water and air you proof the bread (let it rise), amount of sugar, salt, and other ingredients matter. Also I rise bread only once so the yeast does not build up to much in the bread. It can create a yeasty or sour taste no matter how long you bake it. Other tips: Adding Lemon juice as a stabilizer which helps it rise but not rise too much (1 Tbsp per 'loaf'). Many bakeries use vinegar in the same way. Salt is another essential ingredient in quality bread production. It has several functions. It regulates fermentation. Too little salt causes the dough to ferment too fast and wild, while too much salt slows down the fermentation process. In the proper amount, salt produces good grain and texture, because it strengthens the gluten allowing it to fully mature during fermentation. It also prevents the growth of wild yeast and bacteria which can cause the 'sour' taste in bread.
PS: A personal note. I've tried to be unbiased in this article using both Ellen White and science (many of our readers, and myself, believe Ellen White was not only a health reformer, but inspired because NONE of her writings have ever been disproven by science which is UNHEARD of by any other health author. Learn more about Ellen White here.). For myself and our family we do use aluminum free baking powder but in limited amounts. We don't believe it is wrong or harmful to share a birthday cake with friends or eat a cookie at a Christmas party.
Article: Angela Poch, NC
My research on the subject so far as of 2015-08-14.